Larsen gets first NHL head-coaching job with Blue Jackets
When Brad Larsen went from old player to young coach and earning an NHL head job became a goal, he spent time on a hockey database website looking up the paths of those who came before him.
Larsen found many of the most successful coaches took their time and embraced patience.
“My vision was, I’m not in a rush to be a head coach,” Larsen said. “I want to do it right.”
After a decade in coaching, including the past seven years as a Columbus assistant, Larsen was introduced Friday as the Blue Jackets’ new coach. He and team brass agreed that even with connections to the previous two coaching staffs, Larsen earned the opportunity to be the new voice the organization covets to become a contender again.
“There’s that patient endurance that goes into something like that,” Larsen said at his introductory news conference in Columbus. “I’m going to learn more now. I’m going to make mistakes — I promise you — but that’s part of the process.”
Larsen quickly became the top choice to succeed John Tortorella, the Stanley Cup-winning coach who parted ways with the Blue Jackets with his contract expiring. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen said Larsen was one of the first candidates interviewed for the job and others couldn’t surpass the “Lars Bar” set by the 43-year-old homegrown coach.
“It makes me very proud to promote Brad to our head coach because he’s earned it,” Kekalainen said. “It’s going to be a fresh, new voice for us.”
At the very least it’s a fresh perspective from a coach who worked under Tortorella and Todd Richards since 2014 and before that coached the club’s American Hockey League affiliate in Springfield, Massachusetts. Larsen understands the questions about how an organizational mainstay can be a new voice but insists he’ll show that in his coaching.
Whereas Tortorella was gruff, often short and sometimes unfiltered, Larsen said he’s firm but fair and believes in accountability and honesty, much like his old boss.
“I’m my own man,” Larsen said. “I probably will handle things differently than Torts just because that’s who I am and not because he was wrong and I was right, but that’s who I am.”
Which is why Kekalainen and returning Blue Jackets President John Davidson picked Larsen over more experienced coaches, including Rick Tocchet and Gerard Gallant. After last season went off the rails and Columbus finished in last place, picking a coach is another step in a crucial offseason with the organization betting big on Larsen being the best fit.
“There’s a lot of work ahead of us, but it’s exciting,” Davidson said. “We’ve now made this choice. We feel it’s a very strong choice. The communication skills from Brad are exceptional, his love of the Blue Jackets and Columbus are way up the ladder. There was a lot of very positive things.”
One negative thing could be a potential trade of franchise cornerstone defenseman Seth Jones, who is one year away from being a free agent and has reportedly said he won’t re-sign with Columbus. Larsen may not be able to change Jones’ mind but plans to reach out sooner than later.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Jonesy — his game, him as a person,” Larsen said. “He checks a lot of the boxes. We’ll see what transpires there.”